Why hayfever is cured when drunk
June 25, 2005 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Why is it that when you have a cold or hayfever, it is temporarily cured while you are either drunk or asleep?
posted by wibbler to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
The underlying causes are not cured, but you'll notice the symptoms less if you're intoxicated or unconscious.
posted by grouse at 5:04 AM on June 25, 2005

I notice the symptoms way more in those situations.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:06 AM on June 25, 2005

I notice the symptoms much less. So I just drink more, works better than my Allegra-D.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:19 AM on June 25, 2005

more for me too when drinking, and lying down to sleep usually bothers me when i'm all congested.
posted by amberglow at 7:29 AM on June 25, 2005

Not only does drinking make you notice the symptoms less and/or not care about them, but alcohol dilates the blood vessels in your nasal mucosa, making any secretions more watery. Your nose may run a bit more, but it won't be as clogged up. The same thing goes for your lungs. The fact that watery secretions are easier for your body to deal with is one reason it is important to stay well-hydrated when sick. Also, alcohol is a bit of a cough suppressant. It depresses all respiratory reflexes as the dose increases, which is why people who are drunk are more prone to aspirate.
posted by TedW at 7:46 AM on June 25, 2005

Woohoo, TedW! Great answer! (and I've always wondered this as well, for colds, too.)
posted by taz at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2005

Huh, I've always found myself more bothered by cold symptoms in those situations - particularly when lying down to sleep. I suppose it doesn't help that when I try to go to sleep with a congested nose, I know that I'll wake up pretty much unable to breathe.
posted by ubersturm at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2005

It seems that there are different reactions... When I have a horrible allergy or cold, the only time I can breathe is when I'm asleep, or - often, but not always - drinking.
posted by taz at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2005

alcohol is a histamine, no? I notice that my cat allergy symptoms (runny nose, itching and scratching) are made worse if I drink some types of alcohol (for example, wine). Or is it the sulfites in alcohol that are histamines.

Re coughing - TedW has a good point about cough suppression, matter of fact, many cough suppressing medicines contain alcohol.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:38 AM on June 25, 2005

Alcohol is not a histamine, but the sulfites in wines may well be the culprit. This is particularly true of red wines, which contain sulfites naturally.
posted by TedW at 9:50 AM on June 25, 2005

It's my understanding that alcohol does dilate the blood vessels, which would end up causing MORE congestion, not less. I've been told by more than one doctor to avoid alcohol when I have a sinus infection, because it causes more congestion. Decongestants shrink your blood vessels, thus promoting more watery mucus... I always feel worse when both drinking and sleeping while I have a cold. And as far as coughing goes, it's much worse when I'm horizontal.
posted by fabesfaves at 10:27 AM on June 25, 2005

Breathe Right strips might assist uninterrupted sleep. Really courageous stuffy nose sufferer could wear one to the office or classroom.
posted by Cranberry at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2005

"Breathe Right"-style nasal strips (to avoid privileging one brand-name product over, say, the CVS store brand), while they obviate having to hold my nostrils open with my fingers while I'm awake, according to my girlfriend nasal strips don't help my snoring much, especially not since I've heard I snore more when I have a cold, nor do I sleep any better given all the jabbing, kicking and punching my snoring gets me. (Eventually she'll get up and go to her own room, but sometimes she's sadistic stubborn.) So when I'm very nasally stopped up I put on a nasal strip, guzzle a "NyQuil"-type cold remedy (usually a store brand or generic version), then lock my bedroom door so my Loved One can't get me.
posted by davy at 10:41 AM on June 26, 2005

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